PARIS (AFP) – A suspected arson attack on a French kosher grocery store revived fears over anti-Semitism on Tuesday, three years to the day since an assault on a Jewish supermarket by an Islamist gunman.
Prosecutors said the store in the southern Paris suburb of Creteil caught fire overnight, days after it was daubed with anti-Semitic graffiti.
“The damage is believed to be very severe,” Creteil prosecutor Laure Beccuau told AFP.
A source close to the police probe said it was “too soon to discuss motives” though Beccuau said investigators do not believe the fire was an accident.
The Promo & Destock store was one of two neighbouring kosher shops in Creteil that were daubed with swastikas last Wednesday.
2 ans pile après l’attentat de l’Hypercacher de Vincennes durant lequel 4 personnes juives ont été assassinées le 9 janvier 2015 (2 jours après Charlie), des signes nazis tracés sur 2 magasins cacher de Créteil. L’1 de ces magasins porte même nom d’Hypercacher #Horreurantisémite pic.twitter.com/oc60siEsdr
— Memorial 98 (@98Memorial) January 3, 2018
Israel’s ambassador to France Aliza Bin Noun called the fire a “shameful provocation” on the third anniversary of the January 9, 2015 attack at the Hyper Cacher kosher supermarket in eastern Paris.
Jihadist gunman Amedy Coulibaly killed three customers and an employee in an attack that triggered deep concern over growing anti-Semitism.
That attack came two days after Coulibaly’s close friends Said and Cherif Kouachi gunned down 11 people at the offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, kicking off a wave of jihadist attacks in France.
– ‘Deep-rooted’ anti-Semitism –
That year, a record 7,900 French Jews emigrated to Israel, many of them citing increased fears over anti-Semitism.
Though the exodus has since slowed, a string of anti-Semitic crimes have continued to worry France’s large Jewish community.
In April 2017, a Jewish woman was murdered, pushed from a third-floor window by a Muslim neighbour, while a Jewish family was beaten, held hostage and robbed in what rights groups said was a hate crime.
Former prime minister Manuel Valls told Europe 1 radio that more needed to be done to tackle anti-Semitism, which he said had become “deeply rooted” in France.
“What has changed over the past three years is the awareness of this level of anti-Semitism,” he said.
Valls said French society as a whole had failed to mobilise in support of Jews following attacks such as the 2012 Islamist shooting at a Jewish school in Toulouse in which four people were killed, three of them children.
“These are crimes that must be prosecuted and condemned, we need to do more,” he said.
Abdelkader Merah, the brother of the jihadist who carried out the school attack, was handed a 20-year jail sentence in November in a trial that reopened wounds for French Jews.
He was convicted of encouraging his brother Mohamed to carry out a shooting spree targeting Jews and French soldiers, though he was cleared of having a direct role in the attacks.